Saturday 21 January 2017

Huge hike in numbers contacting abuse group

Grainne Cunningham

Published 15/09/2010 | 05:00

DEMAND for the services of the One in Four charity, which provides support for victims of child abuse, more than doubled last year, in the wake of the publication of the Ryan and Murphy reports.

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The charity's annual report, published today, shows that requests for its psychotherapy and advocacy services rose by 214pc over the year.

A total of 1,432 survivors of sexual violence attended One in Four in 2009, compared to 672 in 2008.

Executive director Maeve Lewis said the flood of contacts from victims of sex abuse was "directly attributable to the Ryan and Murphy reports. The debate gave victims the courage to reach out and know they might be believed."

Ms Lewis stressed that she had noticed a "sea change" in what victims were looking for when they got in touch.

"For the first time ever, they were saying, 'I want to make a report to the gardai and HSE now.' Normally, it would take months to get people to that point," she said.

Ms Lewis said many victims of abuse were not thinking about their own experience, but were thinking of the risk that their abuser might reoffend.

"That is a big shift. In the past, people were focused on their own personal suffering," she said.

During the year, 371 clients attended the psychotherapy programme for individual, family and group therapy.

The majority (44pc) had been abused within their families; 27pc by priests or religious; 23pc by neighbours and professionals and 6pc by strangers.

The biggest demand was for advocacy support, with 1,140 clients seeking help in contacting gardai, reporting child protection concerns to the HSE, engaging with Catholic Church authorities and other practical supports. Sixty per cent of advocacy clients were abused within the Catholic Church.

Courage

"Deciding to make a complaint of sexual abuse requires enormous courage. The HSE response varies enormously, and some child-protection concerns are never even investigated. While the gardai work very hard to engage sensitively with victims, the criminal courts remain an arena where victims can be annihilated by archaic, tortuous procedures," she said.

One in Four also noted that of inquiries regarding the group's sex-offender treatment programme, one-third came from the abusers, most of whom would never be convicted because they were offending within their family. Twenty-one men engaged with the One in Four sex-offender treatment programme last year.

Ms Lewis called for the Children First Guidelines to be placed on a statutory footing.

Irish Independent

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